Responding to the Scandal

NickImage

We used to think that the problem of child molestation belonged to other people, but not to fundamental Baptists. Now we are learning otherwise. We are hearing more and more reports of sexual predation, pedophilia, and cover-ups on the part of fundamental Baptist leaders. The resulting impression upon the public is that the clergy of Baptist fundamentalism is unusually goatish, thuggish, and corrupt.

This is not the place to evaluate the truth of individual claims. In a few instances individuals have probably been accused unfairly. Over the past five years, however, too many of these episodes have been verified for us to dismiss them all. Men have gone to prison. More should. The problem is too widespread and has affected too many of the different networks of fundamentalism to permit us to believe that it is merely anomalous or that it is limited only to one branch of fundamentalism.

What is being exposed within fundamentalism is heinous. Pastors, missionaries, and deacons have preyed upon the powerless. Even worse, Christian leaders and Christian organizations have covered up the commission of these crimes. The effect has been to protect the perpetrators. Those who have suffered most—the victims—have been denied justice and have seen their abusers keep their freedom, their livelihoods, and sometimes even their positions of leadership.

So what are we supposed to do? If we are interested in truth and right, if we want to see Christ’s name exalted and not besmirched, and if we care about people, how should we respond to these reports? I wish to provide part of the answer to that question. More needs to be said, but fundamental Baptist leaders, churches, and institutions absolutely must adopt certain core responses.

Of course, certain responses are simply wrong. First, we should not blame the secular media for their reports on these scandals, nor should we dodge their questions. We are witnessing events that are not only newsworthy but salacious. We know in advance that the reporters neither understand nor sympathize with us. We must go out of our way to avoid any appearance that we have something to hide.

Furthermore, we must reject any temptation to blame the victims. An adolescent of thirteen or fourteen is an unequal match for an adult of thirty, especially if the adult is wrapped in the mantle of authority. Yes, the adolescent ought to know what is right and wrong—but our job is to protect youngsters from having to make adult choices. They are not yet prepared for those choices, and we must not treat them as if they were.

Nor should we blame the victims for going outside the fundamentalist network to seek justice. The whole reason that they have been forced to this extreme is because they could not find justice within the structure of the churches and other institutions that were supposed to help them. Our anger (and we should be angry!) should not be directed against the victims who have appealed to other authorities, but against those spiritual authorities who abdicated their responsibility to defend the powerless.

We must also refuse to allow ourselves to be distracted by extraneous considerations. Accusers should never be dismissed just because someone thinks they seem odd or neurotic. Those are actually behaviors we might anticipate in someone who was molested as a child. On the other hand, simply because the accused has a reputation for successful ministry does not mean that he is above accountability. The same character traits that can make a man a visibly effective preacher can sometimes make him an efficient sexual predator.

Those are responses that we should never make. We do have an obligation to respond, however, and that obligation includes certain right reactions.

Our first response must be to refocus upon personal integrity. Many accusations are true, but in the present atmosphere the possibility of false accusations ought to strike fear into every minister. All it takes is one, unsupported claim to end a ministry. Consequently, we have a duty to live our lives such that no credible charge can be leveled against us. We must go out of our way to ensure that we avoid even the appearance of impropriety. How? By common sense precautions. We will install windows so that people can see into our offices. We will never be alone with any female other than our wives and daughters. We will never be alone with a child, even of the same sex, other than our own children. We will never touch a minor in any way except in full view of other adults—and we will guard those touches carefully against misunderstanding.

Just as importantly, our second response must be prevention. We cannot change what has already happened, but we can do our best to ensure that it will not happen again. Every church needs a child protection policy. The policy should define when and where adults are allowed to have contact with minors at church activities. It should prohibit adults from being alone with minors in an unsupervised environment. It should require everyone involved in ministry to minors to receive specific training aimed at avoiding abusive relationships. Very importantly, it should require a background check for every church member who works with minors. It should specify procedures for pursuing complaints and suspicions. It should be widely distributed so that every parent knows its provisions. For a good example of such a policy in a secular organization, churches might look at the Cadet Protection Policy of the Civil Air Patrol.

Our third response should involve prosecution. When pastors and church leaders become aware of abusive situations, they should report these situations to police and child protective agencies. In fact, they should do more than to report. They should demand that the authorities take action. Concerns over confidentiality are badly out of place here, as are concerns over 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. Paul was not writing to the Corinthians about situations in which crimes were being committed or the powerless being victimized. In most states, pastors have a legal obligation to report any situation that they even suspect of being abusive. Justice and protection for victims requires action against abusers. Christian leaders have a duty to protect the powerless. Too often have they adopted the role of shielding the abuser.

The fourth response is more systemic, but just as necessary. Baptist fundamentalists absolutely must repudiate those models of leadership that foster abusive and predatory behavior. Too many fundamentalists equate spiritual leadership with bluster, demagoguery, egotism, authoritarianism, and contemptuousness toward deacons, church members, and especially women. We must stop tolerating such attitudes.

Pastoral authority extends no further than the right to proclaim and implement the teachings of Scripture. Pastors must recognize the God-ordained authority of the congregation, and congregations must hold pastors accountable. Churches must seek pastors who focus upon the exposition of Scripture, who are gentle in their dealings with people, who are open and transparent, and who welcome criticism and accountability. Most of all, churches must reject numerical and financial growth as a measure of success and realize that the very first qualification of any minister is that he must give evidence of knowing and loving God.

Baptist fundamentalism has endured dark episodes in the past, but none has been blacker or more ugly that the present hour. We have no one else to blame. We have been too lax for too long. If the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, then we should welcome the purifying effect that the exposure of sin will have upon us, and we should respond rightly.

The Descent From The Cross
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Is this the Face that thrills with awe
      Seraphs who veil their face above?
Is this the Face without a flaw,
      The Face that is the Face of Love?
Yea, this defaced, a lifeless clod,
      Hath all creation’s love sufficed,
Hath satisfied the love of God,
      This Face the Face of Jesus Christ.

[node:bio/kevin-t-bauder body]

16422 reads

There are 57 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In any really serious and sensitive matter like this one, there are going to be two dangers to avoid, two sets of wrong responses that are at opposite ends of our array of choices.
The sex abuse matter is no exception.

One extreme is the one Kevin has warned against here: that of pretending there is no problem, blaming victims, dismissing accusers, etc. He's right to warn against it, and I don't blame him for focusing on countering that error. Up to now, it has (way) more history in fundamentalism than the other.

But the other extreme is just as real: that of embracing a witch hunt mentality in which accusers are automatically right, alleged victims cannot be doubted in any respect, where anyone who questions any of the premises of accusers is immediately lumped in with the presumed-guilty, and--in this case--where we ascribe spiritual authority to legal, psychological and sociological authorities.

(Kevin does allude some to the reality of the witch-hunt danger, mentioning that some have probably been wrongly accused, for example. Because where I sit I see more of the witch-hunt extreme, I tend to focus on countering that one. But I have no desire to defend those truly guilty of the other.)

Just want to point out that there are two sets of wrong responses to the issue and we truly need to be alert to both, and avoid both.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Quote:
Baptist fundamentalism has endured dark episodes in the past, but none has been blacker or more ugly that the present hour. We have no one else to blame. We have been too lax for too long. If the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, then we should welcome the purifying effect that the exposure of sin will have upon us, and we should respond rightly.

That is the most powerfully accurate statement made about Baptist fundamentalism by a leader.

MClark's picture

Adam, I agree with you that there are two possible extremes (and many responses in between!). However, I believe Dr. Bauder is addressing the response that will be most prevalent within fundamentalism--the response of refusing to admit there is a problem. My husband, a pastor, has already received e-mails from other pastors to this effect ("we are being unfairly persecuted!"). The second response--the witch-hunt extreme--seems more prevalent among those who no longer identify with fundamentalism or who, while they may still attend a conservative church, have been personally hurt/affected by one or more of the abuses within IFBism and are therefore leary of the movement. In the context of this site, Dr. Bauder's warning addresses the more probable of the 2 extremes.

May God give us wisdom and humility.

PhilipT's picture

I've read SharperIron for years and have resisted the urge to join, but this post pushed me over the edge to go for it. I wanted to just say to Dr. Bauder: "Thanks!!!" This is the most honest, loving, and humble response from a fundamentalist on this topic thus far. Let the other side take shots at us as they would like, but the more we sit in our ivory towers defending our actions, we prove ourselves to be the people they claimed us to be. The longer we take shots at the victims, the longer we perpetuate their view that we have no compassion for the hurting and no love for the weak.

We can argue the details (are the police responsible, consensual or rape, 15 or 16?!?).

We can argue the validity of the logic of the 20/20 program (e.g. Surrett).

But in the end, who cares?

The right response elevates love for the victims, humility over our sins, desire to change, and ultimately deepens our view of the Gospel. The Gospel doesn't minimize sin. The Gospel doesn't try to ignore it or pretend that it never happened. In the Gospel we see how big our sin is so we can see how big our Savior is! When we treat sin lightly, we do an injustice to the Gospel that we claim to preach.

Thank you, Dr. Bauder, for bringing us back to the Gospel.

Joshua Hawn's picture

Dr. Bauder's excellant article should have been a stand-alone, comments-closed piece to reflect upon personally. I hope this doesn't become another football or war zone.

Ron Bean's picture

I appreciated this article and have been blessed to hear from a number of friends outside of the IFB camp who appreciated it as well. A number (large or small, you choose) of IFB leaders resist any criticism and when they are found to be incorrect sound like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkqgDoo_eZE ]Fonzie in Happy Days.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

SDHaynie's picture

Quote:
The fourth response is more systemic, but just as necessary. Baptist fundamentalists absolutely must repudiate those models of leadership that foster abusive and predatory behavior. Too many fundamentalists equate spiritual leadership with bluster, demagoguery, egotism, authoritarianism, and contemptuousness toward deacons, church members, and especially women. We must stop tolerating such attitudes.

Thanks, Dr. Bauder, for this article! I would just add that many of these scandals might (and its a big "might") have been avoided had the fourth "response" been a a basic teaching at the beginning of ministry preparation. Then maybe, just maybe, none of these "responses" would have been necessary on quite as large a scale.
I would propose that our Fundamental Baptist educational institutions (as well as informal mentoring and discipleship opportunities which are part of ministry preparation) need to spend even more time teaching such basics as (1) Bible as the Sole Authority of Faith and Practice (after all, there are not too many Biblical teachings more basic than Humility...and pride is at the root of all of the sins listed in the quote); (2) Priesthood of the Believer; (3) Equality of Clergy and Laity; (4) Importance of the Congregation, etc., etc.. And all of this ON TOP OF the teaching of personal integrity as Dr. Bauder points out in his first "response" All of these distinctives/beliefs impact the issue in question. I think these teachings ought to be basic (read, constantly and strongly taught) in ministry preparation..."An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" "Run the fence at the top of the cliff rather than running an ambulance at the bottom." etc.
Again, I want to thank Dr. Bauder for showing, in a very eloquent manner, the seriousness of this issue. Let's pick it up from here and make sure that we not only "respond" properly, but also prepare for the future in such a way that we don't ever fall into this dark chapter again.

Shawn Haynie

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Dr. Kevin Bauder wrote:
The fourth response is more systemic, but just as necessary. Baptist fundamentalists absolutely must repudiate those models of leadership that foster abusive and predatory behavior. Too many fundamentalists equate spiritual leadership with bluster, demagoguery, egotism, authoritarianism, and contemptuousness toward deacons, church members, and especially women. We must stop tolerating such attitudes.

For me it all begins with the text of Scripture.

It is quite possible to see how other forms of abuse -- including the abuse of leadership and the abuse of people -- could be fostered in an environment where, first of all, we (I am speaking very generally here) tolerated the abuse of the text of God's Holy Word. We have all heard the allegorical sermons on the floating axe head, the four anchors, finding different members of the Trinity speaking at different points of the OT, etc., ad nauseum. In this and other areas of abuse, no one had the courage of conviction to stand and announce that the emporor had no clothes.

Add to that mix an unhealthy over-emphasis on separation -- one by which we would divide from people more Biblical than ourselves because they were not aligned with us politically -- and you do indeed have some of the marks of cultic behavior. Abuse can be hidden in such an environment. It is long past time for fundamentalists -- if that is what we truly wish to be -- to take these matters very seriously. Only then will we have an environment where the other needed correctives can be fully implemented.

Obviously, this is a huge area of concern, and only God knows all the details. Finding answers will be an immense task. I am sure that the support for the victims and those who have suffered in any way is overwhelming.

Having said that, however, the 20/20 story was about what I expected... Very sloppy journalism, very one-sided, filled with non-sequitors, etc., etc., etc. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for fundamentalists to find a means of response (not silence) that shows complete sobriety and can begin to restore a measure of confidence.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

RPittman's picture

Kevin Bauder wrote:
The fourth response is more systemic, but just as necessary. Baptist fundamentalists absolutely must repudiate those models of leadership that foster abusive and predatory behavior. Too many fundamentalists equate spiritual leadership with bluster, demagoguery, egotism, authoritarianism, and contemptuousness toward deacons, church members, and especially women. We must stop tolerating such attitudes.

Pastoral authority extends no further than the right to proclaim and implement the teachings of Scripture.[emphasis added ] Pastors must recognize the God-ordained authority of the congregation, and congregations must hold pastors accountable. Churches must seek pastors who focus upon the exposition of Scripture, who are gentle in their dealings with people, who are open and transparent, and who welcome criticism and accountability.

Whereas the whole of IFB is not responsible and accountable for the sins of a few, we are responsible for tolerating and even promoting false teachings that are contributing factors in producing an environment where the sin may be practiced and hidden. The craze of Gothardism skewed our view of authority. Authority is not blanket coverage for the benefit of the individual in authority. Rather authority is a God-delegated power within a specific, confined context for the advancement of the work. Gothard et. al. misled many with his concept of the "umbrella of authority" that was absolute and pervasive. Pastoral authority (i.e. limited, specific, and Biblically defined) is balanced by the authority of the congregation, similar to our "checks and balances" in our government. Pastoral authority, however, gives no special perks or privileges, although we owe our respect to the position. Paul asked, " Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man (1Corinthians 3:5)?" Thus, we must remember that our leaders are mere men.

Quote:
Most of all, churches must reject numerical and financial growth as a measure of success and realize that the very first qualification of any minister is that he must give evidence of knowing and loving God.
AMEN! Yet, the average pulpit committee is typically more interested in the pastoral candidate's previous success in church growth and financial success than the Biblical qualifications, other than the husband of one wife, of I Timothy 3:3-7 and Titus 1:6-9.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
In any really serious and sensitive matter like this one, there are going to be two dangers to avoid, two sets of wrong responses that are at opposite ends of our array of choices.
The sex abuse matter is no exception.

One extreme is the one Kevin has warned against here: that of pretending there is no problem, blaming victims, dismissing accusers, etc. He's right to warn against it, and I don't blame him for focusing on countering that error. Up to now, it has (way) more history in fundamentalism than the other.

But the other extreme is just as real: that of embracing a witch hunt mentality in which accusers are automatically right, alleged victims cannot be doubted in any respect, where anyone who questions any of the premises of accusers is immediately lumped in with the presumed-guilty, and--in this case--where we ascribe spiritual authority to legal, psychological and sociological authorities.

(Kevin does allude some to the reality of the witch-hunt danger, mentioning that some have probably been wrongly accused, for example. Because where I sit I see more of the witch-hunt extreme, I tend to focus on countering that one. But I have no desire to defend those truly guilty of the other.)

Just want to point out that there are two sets of wrong responses to the issue and we truly need to be alert to both, and avoid both.

Aaron, I agree! Well said! It is good to give balance to emotional issues. This is a rare moment that we actually agree on a controversial topic. One of us must be slipping . . . . . Smile

handerson's picture

but I do have one *small* concern that in my mind is pervasive in the whole movement and in some sense, allows for tragedies like this to occur.

My concern is rooted in Dr. Bauder's first suggested response:

[quote]Our first response must be to refocus upon personal integrity. Many accusations are true, but in the present atmosphere the possibility of false accusations ought to strike fear into every minister. All it takes is one, unsupported claim to end a ministry. Consequently, we have a duty to live our lives such that no credible charge can be leveled against us. We must go out of our way to ensure that we avoid even the appearance of impropriety. How? By common sense precautions. We will install windows so that people can see into our offices. We will never be alone with any female other than our wives and daughters. We will never be alone with a child, even of the same sex, other than our own children. We will never touch a minor in any way except in full view of other adults—and we will guard those touches carefully against misunderstanding. [quote]

My question then is this: Why is the need for increased "personal integrity" discussed only in terms of possible false accusations? Shouldn't we take these precautions, not because we're concerned about others' deceitfulness , but because we're concerned about the deceitfulness of our own hearts? It's easy enough in the current tragedies to demonize the abusers as inhuman souls whose only bent in life ever was the destruction and manipulation of young girls. And that WE would NEVER do such a thing; WE are not tempted those ways; WE are above those sins. When are we honestly going to say, "there go I but by the grace of God."

His argument seems to be that "personal integrity" is mainly about protecting our good name, not guarding against our own sinful hearts. As pleased as I was by Dr. Bauder's response, this underlying presupposition is very dangerous and lulls many good men into a false sense of security if they have taken all the appropriate outward precautions. When are we going to call men and women to recognize the sinfulness of our own hearts and take precautions against that?

Bill Roach's picture

I think the real problem here is that TOO MUCH of what has been said in Kevin's article, and on the the 20/20 Program is true.

We have work to do.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
My question then is this: Why is the need for increased "personal integrity" discussed only in terms of possible false accusations? Shouldn't we take these precautions, not because we're concerned about others' deceitfulness , but because we're concerned about the deceitfulness of our own hearts?

I think you missed the larger context. The essay on the whole emphasizes the "own hearts" problem.
But since most of us are never even tempted to abuse a child, it is reasonable to focus on integrity as a feature of our relationship with the general public, which would include what happens if we're accused.

I haven't been following the thread, but hear there were some questions about the nature of clergy confidentiality and reporting laws. These vary from state to state. Some links to resources have just posted in Filings.
http://sharperiron.org/filings/4-18-11/18697

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jay's picture

RPittman wrote:
Whereas the whole of IFB is not responsible and accountable for the sins of a few, we are responsible for tolerating and even promoting false teachings that are contributing factors in producing an environment where the sin may be practiced and hidden. The craze of Gothardism skewed our view of authority. Authority is not blanket coverage for the benefit of the individual in authority. Rather authority is a God-delegated power within a specific, confined context for the advancement of the work. Gothard et. al. misled many with his concept of the "umbrella of authority" that was absolute and pervasive. Pastoral authority (i.e. limited, specific, and Biblically defined) is balanced by the authority of the congregation, similar to our "checks and balances" in our government. Pastoral authority, however, gives no special perks or privileges, although we owe our respect to the position. Paul asked, " Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man (1Corinthians 3:5)?" Thus, we must remember that our leaders are mere men.

No real quibble, but I'd just like to point out that Hyles et al was abusing his role long before Gothard hit the scene. Of course, abuse of authority isn't really a new problem either (III John, among other passages.)

The real problem, of course, is that IFB's didn't separate fast enough from men that do abuse their positions, and now we're all tarred and feathered together.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

RPittman's picture

Jay C. wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Whereas the whole of IFB is not responsible and accountable for the sins of a few, we are responsible for tolerating and even promoting false teachings that are contributing factors in producing an environment where the sin may be practiced and hidden. The craze of Gothardism skewed our view of authority. Authority is not blanket coverage for the benefit of the individual in authority. Rather authority is a God-delegated power within a specific, confined context for the advancement of the work. Gothard et. al. misled many with his concept of the "umbrella of authority" that was absolute and pervasive. Pastoral authority (i.e. limited, specific, and Biblically defined) is balanced by the authority of the congregation, similar to our "checks and balances" in our government. Pastoral authority, however, gives no special perks or privileges, although we owe our respect to the position. Paul asked, " Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man (1Corinthians 3:5)?" Thus, we must remember that our leaders are mere men.

No real quibble, but I'd just like to point out that Hyles et al was abusing his role long before Gothard hit the scene. Of course, abuse of authority isn't really a new problem either (III John, among other passages.)

The real problem, of course, is that IFB's didn't separate fast enough from men that do abuse their positions, and now we're all tarred and feathered together.

This is true. However, I did say "Gothard et. al." making him representative of the whole spectrum. It was Gothard, however, who formulated authority into dogma and disseminated it widely through parts of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism where Hyles did not reach. Both Hyles and Gothard were children of their times and reacted to various influences of their cultural milieu. If you lived through the 1960-1970's, you would recall that the world was topsy-scurvy and many were in fear that authority would be destroyed and anarchy would prevail. Fear drove people to submit to what they perhaps would not have tolerated under more stable circumstances. This, I think, was the spark for the authoritarian reaction that appealed so easily to human nature's desire to control and dominate. It was a downhill slide from that point.

handerson's picture

Aaron,

Perhaps I'm responding to a larger culture that I associated with Bauder's comments. As a movement, the "personal integrity" card has been played mainly to protect against the accusation of immoral conduct not against the temptation to immoral conduct. Usually it is discussed in context of the more "normal" sin of adultery, not in the the current extreme of child abuse, but the philosophical argument is the same in both cases. My only point is that the that whole concept is illegitimate and misleads people about the nature of sin. You say "most of us are never even tempted to abuse a child" but how do you know what each individual struggles with? (I GUARANTEE you that confession is not going to come out at the next pastors' luncheon.) And so instead of teaching people how to fight sin in their own hearts, we teach them how to avoid being accused of sin.

My point (as minor as it may be) is that we cannot assume our hearts wouldn't stoop to this sin or any other. On the whole Bauder seems to be saying "yes, we have sin in our midst; we need to deal with it." I'm just asking that the FIRST thing we say is "yes, we have sin in our hearts and we need to deal with that."

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I completely agree with your input here. It is all too easy to distance ourselves from some heinous sin, as if we are somehow immune. And no one wakes up in the morning contemplating abusing children who hasn't already gone there in their imaginations and choices of entertainment for quite a long time before the thought becomes action.

I mentioned on another thread that we are to "flee fornication", but after talking to many Christian friends, IRL and on the net, there isn't very much fleeing going on. When Twilight is being marketed in some Christian circles as a basis for abstinence curriculum, you know that several sets of marbles are bouncing around on the floor. And we have the gall to wonder why sexual sins of all kinds are so prevalent?

CPHurst's picture

When my wife and I first watched the recent 20/20 episode to which this post in part address we were horrified. Horrified that this kind of stuff happens in any kind of church period and horrified that it comes from the kids of churches that have for so long claimed to be obeying God's Word more than others.

Then, we saw people that went to and attend my wifes church growing up who basically had all of the wrong responses Bauder presents here. That was horrible as well. They were more concerned about the public nature of these sins and that the label of IFB churches was given as a broad brush stroke to all Independent Fundamental Baptist churches then they were about the victims and the abuse they endured both sexually and by their church.

Bauder has done here what I was waiting for someone to do within these circles. As Bill Roach said above, too much of what the 20/20 interview said is true. This needs to stop and this is not something that should be named among any church or organization.

Matt Walker's picture

I doubt Dr. Bauder reads through these...I don't usually myself. However, I received this in my email from him as many others of you do on Friday I think, and since that time something he wrote here has been nagging at me a little. It isn't a big thing. I agree with nearly everthing he writes. So much so, that maybe I read his writing a little too critically looking for something with which to disagree. Like many others, I tend to do that with people I respect because I learn more about how they came to their conclusions. So if this comes across to you as a bit nit-picky, please overlook my critical eye.

What Dr. Bauder wrote was this: "The fourth response is more systemic, but just as necessary. Baptist fundamentalists absolutely must repudiate those models of leadership that foster abusive and predatory behavior. Too many fundamentalists equate spiritual leadership with bluster, demagoguery, egotism, authoritarianism, and contemptuousness toward deacons, church members, and especially women. We must stop tolerating such attitudes."

What is causing me some concern is that the main focus of the scandals, at least in these particular cases, are not really from the side of fundamentalism that follows these "models of leadership." While I whole-heartedly agree that the bluster, demagoguery, etc. is a serious problem, I don't think that was a cause for what happened in the cases presented by 20/20 and I don't think it was an underlying problem in the ABWE situation. Rather, in the criminal cases on 20/20, the majority of the stories presented were from our side of fundamentalism, the side that blanches at the pomposity and egotism Dr. Bauder is writing about here.

While the 20/20 show did show some of these kinds of pastors preaching (if you could call it that), the scandals were ours. Marquette Manor was being led by Pastor Simmons at the time of these crimes and he wrote a chapter in From The Mind Of God To The Mind Of Man, not something being sold in the bookstore at First Baptist in Hammond I suspect. Moreover, the problems at Marquette during that time, which are mind-numbingly incredible, have no connection with the IFB groups that so many on this blog are piling on (again, most of the time, rightly so).

So while I'm not defending these IFB pastors who are this way, I repudiate these violations of 1 Peter 5 as much as anyone..my own church family would concur with me on this...I have to say that in this particular case, they are not the problem here.

My point is that if we are going to own up and say that fundamentalism needs fixing, and I think there is an overwhelming agreement on that point here, then we have to own up to what actually caused this to happen. Frankly, it was a toleration of sin in lives of the pastors/deacons. I'm reminded of the opening paragraphs of Richard Baxter's Reformed Pastor when he asks those piercing questions about the spiritual lives of pastors. What I have taken away from this is a renewed desire for wisdom to avoid compromising situations, grace to live a crystal clear life above reproach, and humility to admit when I fail the Lord in these matters. I don't want to come to the place where after I have preached to others, I myself have become a castaway.

Matt

NOTE: Not all the pastors at Marquette at the time were involved in this stuff or were even aware of it.

G. N. Barkman's picture

I have resisted commenting on this controversy until now, largely because I am unfamiliar with any of these situations. I guess I'm a bit removed from the IFB orbit. The only thing I know about the Trinity, New Hampshire situation is what I have read on three or four blogs, and until the 20/20 program, that wasn't much. I was unaware until the past few days of a scandal at Marquette Manor, so it appears that I am really out of the loop.

That being said, I would like to offer two comments. 1) When these things happen, it is wise, good, and helpful to do some soul searching to see if there are weaknesses that contribute to such sad and sinful situations. 2) We must remember that the sin nature remains in all Christians, and we shouldn't be terribly shocked that it manifests itself in appalling ways at times. I personally doubt that IBF churches produce more of this than others, though perhaps it may be so. However, I have seen a fair share of this kind of shameful behavior in other groups as well. It's easy to point the finger at those with whom we disagree, and feel a bit vindicated that we warned about that. "I told you so" is a common human foible which we all share.

Perhaps IBF'ers are so separated that they don't know about similar situations in other groups. Perhaps IBF'ers are so convinced that they have the truest form of Biblical Christianity that they are shocked to find such sin in their midst, though not surprised to find it in others. Maybe the good that can come out of these tragedies is to show IBF'ers that they are not superior to all other Christians. My background is IBF, and technically, I am still IBF, though do not fellowship exclusively in IBF circles. Because of this, many of my IBF brethren do not want to fellowship with me. Familiar story? No matter. My life is too full, and my ministry too busy to fret about such matters. I have found many good and godly men within the IBF, for which I am grateful. I have also found many good and godly men outside IBF circles, with whom I enjoy warm fellowship. I have also found too many shallow and petty men within the IBF, and have found much the same outside IBF circles. Guess what? We are all sinners! No need for superiority. We've all got too much remaining sin to be judging the servants of another. I've got my hands full keeping my own remaining sin in check. If I become careless, I fall. That's true of all Christians in all camps. It may not be an IBF "thing" at all. It's probably a "sin thing." When we think we stand, we must take heed lest we fall. Perhaps there is too much pride of "we take the right stand." May these tragic falls teach us all greater humility and vigilance.

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

handerson wrote:
Aaron,

Perhaps I'm responding to a larger culture that I associated with Bauder's comments. As a movement, the "personal integrity" card has been played mainly to protect against the accusation of immoral conduct not against the temptation to immoral conduct. Usually it is discussed in context of the more "normal" sin of adultery, not in the the current extreme of child abuse, but the philosophical argument is the same in both cases. My only point is that the that whole concept is illegitimate and misleads people about the nature of sin. You say "most of us are never even tempted to abuse a child" but how do you know what each individual struggles with? (I GUARANTEE you that confession is not going to come out at the next pastors' luncheon.) And so instead of teaching people how to fight sin in their own hearts, we teach them how to avoid being accused of sin.

My point (as minor as it may be) is that we cannot assume our hearts wouldn't stoop to this sin or any other. On the whole Bauder seems to be saying "yes, we have sin in our midst; we need to deal with it." I'm just asking that the FIRST thing we say is "yes, we have sin in our hearts and we need to deal with that."


I understand, I think.
I would put the whole thing in slightly different terms. The "we have sin our hearts" part goes under the heading of repentance. The "we conduct ministry in a way that accusations are unlikely" goes under the integrity heading (along with other things) and the "we take steps to avoid temptation," I'd put under precautions. The last two really are almost inseparable, though. It's pretty hard to take precautions against temptation and not simultaneously safeguard against accusation, and vice versa.

GNB wrote:
I personally doubt that IBF churches produce more of this than others, though perhaps it may be so.

I agree. That is, if we assume that most IFB people are Christians, I have to believe we have less of this problem than the general population. Otherwise, Philip.1:6 (and a bunch of other passages) would appear to not mean much. And I think "systemic" problems in IFB that contribute to this as a church problem are not unique to IFB either. Surely no one believes that IFB has a corner on the markets of, say, authoritarian leadership, bad theology, pride, misogyny, etc. These things were around before IFB.
I suspect these problems are not unusual in all highly-independent groups (and some not-very-independent ones).

I think we're also pretty murky on what "IFB" is. We know the oppressive, cult-like leader plus obsessive dress code plus translation obsession plus doctrinal neglect plus sky-scraper preaching (story upon story) flavor of IFB is out there. People who have done their homework also know that lots of churches exist that are none of those things though still Baptist, independent and fundamentalist.
So are we including all of these widely differing folks in the "IFB" bucket? To me, the distinctions are so numerous and substantial it's almost meaningless to refer to them all as a single group.

All that to say that the question "does IFB have a sex abuse and coverup epidemic?" depends on how you define "IFB."

I appreciate your note on judgmentalism also. It could be my imagination, but it seems like there's been an almost gleeful eagerness to cast the first stone in this whole business. Isn't there something a bit off when our first impulse in response to any brother's mishandling of a situation is to publicly accuse him of sin and call for his repentance? (Perhaps the term is "self righteousness"?)
I think Kevin's essay here, though, shows none of that.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:
I have resisted commenting on this controversy until now, largely because I am unfamiliar with any of these situations. I guess I'm a bit removed from the IFB orbit. The only thing I know about the Trinity, New Hampshire situation is what I have read on three or four blogs, and until the 20/20 program, that wasn't much. I was unaware until the past few days of a scandal at Marquette Manor, so it appears that I am really out of the loop.

That being said, I would like to offer two comments. 1) When these things happen, it is wise, good, and helpful to do some soul searching to see if there are weaknesses that contribute to such sad and sinful situations. 2) We must remember that the sin nature remains in all Christians, and we shouldn't be terribly shocked that it manifests itself in appalling ways at times. I personally doubt that IBF churches produce more of this than others, though perhaps it may be so. However, I have seen a fair share of this kind of shameful behavior in other groups as well. It's easy to point the finger at those with whom we disagree, and feel a bit vindicated that we warned about that. "I told you so" is a common human foible which we all share.

Perhaps IBF'ers are so separated that they don't know about similar situations in other groups. Perhaps IBF'ers are so convinced that they have the truest form of Biblical Christianity that they are shocked to find such sin in their midst, though not surprised to find it in others. Maybe the good that can come out of these tragedies is to show IBF'ers that they are not superior to all other Christians. My background is IBF, and technically, I am still IBF, though do not fellowship exclusively in IBF circles. Because of this, many of my IBF brethren do not want to fellowship with me. Familiar story? No matter. My life is too full, and my ministry too busy to fret about such matters. I have found many good and godly men within the IBF, for which I am grateful. I have also found many good and godly men outside IBF circles, with whom I enjoy warm fellowship. I have also found too many shallow and petty men within the IBF, and have found much the same outside IBF circles. Guess what? We are all sinners! No need for superiority. We've all got too much remaining sin to be judging the servants of another. I've got my hands full keeping my own remaining sin in check. If I become careless, I fall. That's true of all Christians in all camps. It may not be an IBF "thing" at all. It's probably a "sin thing." When we think we stand, we must take heed lest we fall. Perhaps there is too much pride of "we take the right stand." May these tragic falls teach us all greater humility and vigilance.

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

Greg,

This is a good well-balanced observation. We need more careful and cool-headed thinking in this area because it is so emotionally volatile. The secular feminist approach is rant and rage that fuels a political agenda. It is presumptive that all men (BTW, it appears that we are seeing a higher incidence of women with underage boys, which may or may not be attributable to the climate fostered by feminist empowerment. Perhaps this is the place to point out that the feminist rage is just as violent, destructive, and tyrannical as the overbearing authoritarianism.) are molesters. This, of course, is not true although the Christian view is that all men are sinners and are subject to any sin on the books. As you suggested, many IFBs seem to think, although unstated, that it can't happen here. Such an attitude has been proven wrong time and again as we experience financial fraud, immorality, etc. within our ranks. Now, we must face this wickedness that is too heinous to even mention or think about. Yes, we may be harboring, although not intentionally, evil that is condemned by even a licentious secular world. Is there a modern parallel of turning a blind eye to wickedness as the Corinthian church did? Paul wrote, "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles[emphasis added ], that one should have his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5:1)."

Since the discussions have begun on SI, my position has been awareness and prevention. IMHO, the rant and rage approach is futile and counterproductive in that it is bad for the victims. On the other hand, we must raise our level of awareness. Child sexual abuse is real and it is everywhere. We must raise our voices in condemnation. We must go to the extra time, effort, and expense to make our churches and ministries safe for children. However, we can never rest in that sense of security because constant vigilance is the only means of prevention. Every ministry should have an ongoing prevention program with written policies, procedures, and guidelines for working with children. Training for children's workers is essential. A high level of awareness for risk must be maintained. However, written policies and talk (awareness) are not sufficient measures of security unless there is vigilance, application, and practice.

In closing, please allow me to put in a personal plug. This is an area where I've studied, worked, and taught for around a decade. At times, I have felt that I was the lone voice crying in the wilderness. People would listen, nod their heads, and go on about their business. We are agreed, I think, that it is high time to do something. What we cannot do is change the past but we can prevent the continuation of this horrendous wickedness. I have two Facebook pages with numerous links dedicated to prevention and creating prevention programs. If you are interested in more than talk, visit my pages and inform yourself. Then, do something! (At this point, I am NOT directing this challenge personally to Greg but I'm challenging all SI readers.)

Check out the links below:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/How-to-Protect-Your-Ministry-Child-Sexual-... ]How to Protect Your Ministry

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Identifying-and-Preventing-Child-Sexual-Ab... ]Identifying and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Thank you for your time and consideration.

With regards,
Roland

RPittman's picture

Aaron wrote:
I agree. That is, if we assume that most IFB people are Christians, I have to believe we have less of this problem than the general population. Otherwise, Philip.1:6 (and a bunch of other passages) would appear to not mean much. And I think "systemic" problems in IFB that contribute to this as a church problem are not unique to IFB either. Surely no one believes that IFB has a corner on the markets of, say, authoritarian leadership, bad theology, pride, misogyny, etc. These things were around before IFB.
I suspect these problems are not unusual in all highly-independent groups (and some not-very-independent ones).

I think we're also pretty murky on what "IFB" is. We know the oppressive, cult-like leader plus obsessive dress code plus translation obsession plus doctrinal neglect plus sky-scraper preaching (story upon story) flavor of IFB is out there. People who have done their homework also know that lots of churches exist that are none of those things though still Baptist, independent and fundamentalist.
So are we including all of these widely differing folks in the "IFB" bucket? To me, the distinctions are so numerous and substantial it's almost meaningless to refer to them all as a single group.

All that to say that the question "does IFB have a sex abuse and coverup epidemic?" depends on how you define "IFB."

Child sexual abuse is not an IFB problem or a problem of a particular segment of IFB. Child sexual abuse is a human problem--it is real and it is everywhere. Aaron is right, I think, that child sexual abuse in IFB circles is less than the general population just as murder per capita is lower. Abuse is pervasive in certain socio-economic circles. However, child sexual abuse is unacceptable at any level of incidence within Christianity, especially IFB Christianity. What makes it so abhorrent is the disparity between what we profess and believe against the awfulness of child sexual abuse. Also, there's the harm to the testimony of Christ before an unbelieving world, the suffering of the victims, and the destruction in the lives of people around the situation.

In light of these conditions, do IFBs have a greater problem than others? The answer is obviously NO but there's no comfort or resting in being less wicked than others. We must deal with the problem that we do have but there's no cause to single out and castigate IFBs. However, there are two inherent factors that converge and make us particularly vulnerable--authority and trust. It does not have to be extreme authoritarianism or overly trusting to set the trap. We do ourselves disservice by portraying this as extremes because this points the finger at the other guy meanwhile ignoring the potential threat in our own midst.

The dynamic of child sexual abuse is a disparity of power. It is the stronger versus the weaker. Whereas we are hearing mostly of adult-on-child abuse, there is prevalent child-on-child abuse where the child is bigger, older, and stronger. The stronger chooses to get his/her sexual gratification from a weaker individual when one's lust cannot be satisfied in an equal-to-equal way. The attitudes of authority and trust within ministries create the opportune climate where sexual abuse could occur. Authority is right and good with its Biblical bounds. Children should learn obedience and respect. However, the problem is that NO ONE has the authority that allows them to abuse a child. Abuse is not within the bounds of authority, which is God-given, but it is the exercise of power and force. Child sexual abuse is force--it is rape--not the use or the abuse of authority because NO ONE has this authority. We need to differentiate between authority, which is legitimate and God-given, and force or power. Furthermore, trust is a good thing within the confines of what is right and good. Like so many other things such as sex, which is good and wonderful within the bounds of matrimony but is wicked and sinful in fornication, adultery, and perversion, trust can be misused to work wickedness. To keep our thinking clear, we must discern the differences to avoid negative connotations to things that are legitimate.

In sum, we must see risk among ourselves rather than trying to relegate incidences to the fringe and some extreme factor within them. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." The naturally occurring authority and trust in ministries creates situations where abuse can happen. By being aware, following good guidelines, and watching carefully, we can reduce the risk. There are essentially two types of sexual abusers--the serial and the opportunistic. The serial is a pedophile who typically abuses many children. He or she seeks out soft ministries allowing unsupervised contact with children where his or her sin may be practiced. Background checks raise a red flag and this abuser usually departs quickly seeking easier and less risky pickings. The opportunistic offender is one who is overcome with temptation when the opportunity arises. By removing easy, alluring opportunities, this individual is kept from succumbing to his lust.

Mike Durning's picture

RPittman wrote:
In light of these conditions, do IFBs have a greater problem than others? The answer is obviously NO but there's no comfort or resting in being less wicked than others. We must deal with the problem that we do have but there's no cause to single out and castigate IFBs. .

Surely abuse/molestation in the average IFB church is far less than, for instance, than the abuse/molestation incidence in the public housing project in which I do some ministry. Believe me, I know. I'm on the phone often to Child Protective Services. It's harder to gage how often it happens in relation to the general population. For instance, if I extrapolate from my experiences at Hyles-Anderson College, I can say the incidence of ultimately successful prosecutions was far higher than the general population. And that was in the early 80's, when molestation reporting was far less mainstream. Whether that extends to all IFB at the same level remains to be seen.

But I think the issue is that church is supposed to be better. Believers ought to have a life that is distinctly better (that's not elitism, just Scripture). The church ought to be better in its pursuit of protecting the weak and giving justice to the oppressed, wherever it's within our purview (I know that sounds very "Kingdom Now"-like, which I do not embrace, but it's still true).

It's kind of like if a Jewish couple sent their son to a Boy Scout meeting, and he was sent to a gas chamber. The family's shock would be far greater, because they would expect that from a Nazi, but not a scout leader.
Similarly, I was kind of hoping churches would be better than the world at some of this stuff. I'm sure Jesus was too.

RPittman wrote:
However, there are two inherent factors that converge and make us particularly vulnerable--authority and trust. It does not have to be extreme authoritarianism or overly trusting to set the trap. We do ourselves disservice by portraying this as extremes because this points the finger at the other guy meanwhile ignoring the potential threat in our own midst.

I suspect it is problematical not just because the leaders demand such trust and authority, and not just because the polity is structured to grant it, but also because the personality of many people who attend IFB churches has a certain streak that is vulnerable to it. I'm thinking of the behaviors outlined in, for instance, The Authoritarian Personality, Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, et al. 1950.

RPittman's picture

Mike wrote:
Surely abuse/molestation in the average IFB church is far less than, for instance, than the abuse/molestation incidence in the public housing project in which I do some ministry. Believe me, I know. I'm on the phone often to Child Protective Services. It's harder to gage how often it happens in relation to the general population. For instance, if I extrapolate from my experiences at Hyles-Anderson College, I can say the incidence of ultimately successful prosecutions was far higher than the general population. And that was in the early 80's, when molestation reporting was far less mainstream. Whether that extends to all IFB at the same level remains to be seen.
Of course, there may be higher instances in a restricted sampling but the sampling may not be representative of the population. For example, one case in a small church will heavily skew the statistics for the sampling.

On the other hand, there's the matter of reporting. Many times where there high number of reported incidences, it is difficult to determine if the incident rate is higher or if there's a higher rate of reporting due to a high profile. My experience is that the reporting rate is lower where the abuse is prevalent and accepted whereas the reporting is higher where it is less frequent. Our statistics is only as good as our data. Overall, the reporting rate has tremendously increased with awareness and publicity.

I heartily agree that the real issue is that it ought not be in the church at all. Although we can never entirely eliminate it because of sinful human nature, we can reduce the rate with effort, determination, and vigilance.

RPittman's picture

In all of our discussions, I fail to hear some basic Biblical issues. Scripture clearly teaches that ". . . every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15)." Child molestation and sexual lust is like every other sin. It's attraction is within us; the outward circumstance or opportunity is the temptation that allures our lust. Our own lust is the hook that draws us into sinning. Whereas we cannot eradicate our own sinful nature, we can ". . . put . . . on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof (Romans 13:14)."

The problem is that we are inundated with sex and lust from every side. Our society is sexualized. Sex sells everything from automobiles to toothpaste. Our society believes that all adult-consenting sex is fun and permissible as long as it is safe and doesn't hurt anyone. The concept of sexual morality is lost in our culture. This, IMHO, is one of the major factors in the epidemic of child sexual abuse. When men and women, whose lust has been aroused by a highly charged sexual environment, cannot fulfill their desires (i.e. lusts) through normal channels, they seek an easier way that is often taking the advantage of power over a weaker being. While speaking loudly and clearly against child sexual abuse, we must also be loud and clear against the factors promoting it such as the sexual emphasis in society, lack of sexual morality in general, sexual perversion, and pornography. There is, IMHO, a connection many times between child sexual abuse and pornography. Furthermore, we must preach and teach against sexual fantasy and impure thoughts as well as the outward behavior. The behavior obviously begins in the thought life. As Bauder has intimated, we need to get back to a basic integrity of character.

handerson's picture

Quote:
In all of our discussions, I fail to hear some basic Biblical issues. Scripture clearly teaches that ". . . every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15)." Child molestation and sexual lust is like every other sin.

Thank you! Properly recognizing the source of sin and the process of temptation is where we must start in dealing with these tragedies. This issue is what I was struggling with when I questioned Bauder's approach to "personal integrity." Personal integrity is more about the spiritual fight against sin than about avoiding accusations. (Christ Himself couldn't avoid false accusations and if He had followed typical expectations, He would never have spoken to the the woman at the well or met with publicans and sinners.) So personal integrity is not a list of rules, but an honest, humble evaluation of our own sinfulness, confessing our struggles to brothers and sisters in Christ, Spirit-dependence, and accountability.

Beautifully, when our main concern is fighting sin in our hearts, it in turn, leads us to careful accountability in our church ministries - not because we want to avoid accusations, but because we want to avoid allowing for situations that would tempt us or others around us. If we learn anything from these tragedies, it is the deceitfulness and destructiveness of sin. We also learn that we must be "killing sin, or it will be killing us."

G. N. Barkman's picture

I was not suggesting that child abuse is less frequent in IFB churches than the general public. I should hope so! I was suggesting that it is no more frequent, and hopefully less than in other Christian groups.

That being said, the fact that it is found at all in conservative, Bible-believing churches is a reminder that: 1) sin is everywhere, even in churches, and we ought not be terribly surprised when it manifests itself. That is part of our fallen condition, and will continue to plague us until we are fully sanctified in heaven. 2) to the extent we practice sloppy churchmanship, the problem will be magnified. Evangelistic methodologies that encourage unconverted people into church membership needs to stop. Styles of leadership and church government that are weak on accountability need to be changed. Pulpit ministries that lack serious exposition of Scripture need to be eliminated. Inconsistent and unBiblical practices of church disicpline need to be strengthened. Greater emphasis upon inward holiness rather than external standards needs to be encouraged.

In short, we need a revival of serious, Biblical Christianity.

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

Jeff Brown's picture

I found everything to be good in Kevin's splendid article except the very first sentence: "We used to think that the problem of child molestation belonged to other people, but not to fundamental Baptists." Really? Was my church so unique? First I read an article about the problem among Christians in the Baptist Bulletin in 1982. Then I got a call from a family in the church weeks later: child-molestation. Fortunately, the girl had gone to Child Protection (or whatever the agency name was in those days). In order to get advice, I telephoned three pastors, all older than myself. The first one told me that a minister could spend a lifetime without encountering the sin in his church (obviously he had not). The other two responded in silence, then said "Yes." That was the early 1980s. In all three situations, the perpetrators went to prison. While the father of our church family was incarcerated, a visiting couple gave a wonderful testimony about their soul-winning efforts in my SS class. I was, of course pleased at the positive input. Weeks later their (Baptist) pastor told me that the man was under investigation for child-molestation. Being involved in the experience makes you feel pretty sick. These were two of multiple matters of sexual immorality that I had to deal with (not to mention all the ones I learned about that were not mine to deal with) over a period of seven years. That was now nearly 30 years ago. Kevin, maybe you thought that child molestation did not occur among fundamental Baptists, but I have not been under that false assumption since 1982 (and neither has the Baptist Bulletin).

I just never got interviewed by 20/20.

Jeff Brown

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.